Behind scenes, Catholic bishops seek an exit strategy for Obamacare mandate

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Newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, center left, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky. and new vice president, center right, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, speak to the press on Tuesday (Nov. 12) in Baltimore. RNS photo by David Gibson

Newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, center left, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky. and new vice president, center right, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, speak to the press on Tuesday (Nov. 12) in Baltimore. RNS photo by David Gibson

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(RNS) After repeatedly drawing a line in the sand over the White House's birth control coverage mandate, a growing number of bishops have begun to push back, arguing that such hard-line rhetoric has put them in an untenable position.

  • Larry

    The Catholic Church is doing everything possible to undermine their credibility and give the impression of ham-fisted bullies. It is obvious they would rather spend money on pointless lawsuits, media spin control, protecting pedophiles and supporting political extremist candidates than care for the sick and needy.

    They are demanding a privilege they have no business asking for. An alleged right to determine how their employees spend the money they receive as compensation for working church owned facilities.

    There is no moral standing behind such an imperious stance. They can no more ask that health insurers not cover contraception than they can demand their workers must attend mass as a prerequisite to receiving their paycheck.

  • lozeerose

    The issue is the Church would be forced to pay for abortions and artificial contraceptives through the insurance provided. As it stands the Church is not required to pay for services it finds immoral.

  • Stephen Levings

    Indeed they have no moral standing. I would say their standing is less imperious and more gutless.

  • faustina maria

    Steven & Larry,
    Perhaps you two have no moral standing. If you don’t like the Catholic Church that is your loss. Why don’t the two of you raving, gutless souls mind your own business.

  • Kim Dale

    EXACTLY! – It isn’t the business of non-Catholics to tell us Catholics what we should or should not do. Mind the affairs of your own immoralities and stop trying to force immoral practices on us and against God.

  • LFK

    It would seem you misunderstand the mandate. You claim the bishops are demanding to be able to tell employees of Catholic institutions how they – the employee – can spend their own money. Hardly. Those employees are free today to buy as much contraception as they want. Rather, the bishops are being told how Catholic institutions must spend their money. And it’s not just covering contraception according to usual plan provisions, but paying for 100% of it, all day, everyday. I’m sure diabetics would like to provisions like that – and hey, it might actually improve their health. Barring mental handicap, you are either misinformed or malicious.

  • Joe H

    I am somewhat confused about some of the statements in the above article. Who is the person who said it is the “church’s teaching that access to good, affordable health care is a basic right”? Do I have the right to tell a medical practitioner that he or she has to operate on me? Do I have the right to tell a pharmacist… you have to provide me free birth control pills? We don’t have the right to control or enslave anyone! When we choose to comply with immoral demands then this socialist government has won! Over 50 percent of Catholics voted for this current administration, and, now the chickens have come home to roost. As a practicing Catholic, I pray that the clergy be my moral compass and reassure me that there is no compromise when it comes to abortion, gay marriage, Chemical birth control and other culturally diverse issues that are just plain sinful! Doing what is right isn’t always easy, but, the benefits are Eternal.

  • lisag

    Why don’t the colleges and hospitals who want to operate outside the catechism of the Church separate themselves from the church. They should get rid of all Catholic references in their name and just become non prophets. As it is many colleges have so overwhelmingly accepted the secular society they actually hurt the church. What the Bishops should do is work for conscious clauses for all Catholics in the education and health field. Otherwise a practicing Catholic would be forced to teach what the state demands on morals and in hospitals they would be required to participate in anti life practices.

  • Larry


    Its about telling employees how to spend the money and benefits they earn working for Church institutions. The church doesn’t pay for the procedures, they pay for the insurance. They are demanding a right to intrude upon the private lives of their employees.

    Short of working for an actual house of worship, employers have no business in enforcing religious codes of conduct on their employees. Many of whom are not even Catholic. Its no more legitimate than forcing people to collect their paychecks after attending mandatory Sunday mass.

    The church has no say in the matter. Healthcare insurance is compensation for the work being done on their behalf. They can no more decide how healthcare funds are used than they can tell their employees how to spend their paycheck.

  • Larry

    I understand the mandate fully. You don’t understand the limits of an employer’s rights in such matters. You also are under the mistaken impression that there is such a thing as an institution’s religious beliefs. If it isn’t a house of worship, a workplace has no such identity no matter who is running it.

    You make a patently dishonest argument. Those employees are NOT free today to buy contraception or have medical procedures. Insurance benefits are the employee’s money. It is no different in status than the paycheck. Health insurance is the employee’s compensation for their work. It is their money to spend. If the Church doesn’t like how its spent, tough luck. Its none of their business.

    You are asking for a right which doesn’t exist. Your argument is ultimately ridiculous.

    Could a Christian Science institution bar all health insurance for employees? Of course not. How about banning blood transfusions for a company owned by Jehovah’s witnesses? Equally ridiculous. Your argument is no different here.

  • Larry

    It is immoral to demand others to follow your sectarian dictates by force. Yet Catholics believe it is their business to tell everyone what to do regardless of their religious belief.

    The Catholic Church has no moral standing to speak of. They are spending more time, money and energy defending pedophiles and trying to deny reasonable healthcare to people than anything beneficial to society.

  • Larry

    Your argument is nonsense.

    Those medical procedures and birth control aren’t free. They are being funded by the insurance plans which are part of an employee’s compensation. It is the employee’s choice as to how they seek healthcare.

    The thing about being the employee for anyone besides an actual house of worship is that nobody has to care what the employer’s religious beliefs are. It is not the business of an employer to be forcing adherence to their sectarian practices on employees.

  • Larry

    This is a ridiculous argument. You are essentially saying that these places should only employ and serve Catholics.

    These institutions employ and serve plenty of people who are not Catholic, who have no duty to follow Catholic doctrines. They are open to the public. They have to serve the public. They have no business telling the public to follow their sectarian practices through what amounts to coercion.

  • Joe H

    Unfortunately Larry, you were much funnier when you were with your sidekicks Curly and Moe.

  • Larry

    I take that as an acknowledgement that you really didn’t think your argument through. Understood. The lack of clear thinking on your part shows through.

    If you don’t like abortion, gay marriage or contraception, don’t have any of them. Just don’t get the impression that you have any right to force anyone to follow in kind.

  • Pingback: Gibson on USCCB on ACA | Catholic Sensibility()

  • Magdalene

    I expect most bishops to cave as has happened throughout history. A few have spines and will speak the truth and take the consequences. As in the past, perhaps some will be saints.

    To force anyone to pay for the killing of the unborn or to pay for contraception which also has abortifacient properties is more than just unfair. It is a direct attack on freedom. To call those things ‘health care’ is wordsmithing from the pit of hell.

  • Larry

    You have no clue how employer based health insurance works. It shows through in your argument and those adopted by the bishops. Its this ignorance and/or lack of honesty which ultimately dooms such efforts.

    Health insurance is a form of compensation for work performed. Once an employer funds a health insurance plan, their responsibility for health care ends. It is none of their business how the employees use said insurance. There is no special right which allows an employer to tell employees how to spend their paycheck or other forms of compensation.

    The employer doesn’t pay for the procedures and prescriptions any more than they pay for your groceries once you cash a paycheck. Your employer has no right to tell you what to buy at the supermarket. This is the same thing.

  • Joe H

    Magdalene, someone should have warned you about Larry the Moderator. This guy has nothing better to do with his time than to spew out his anti Christian rhetoric. FYI Larry, an employer can say exactly what can be in the policy… Obamacare could care less about health care, all they want is total control over organizations and individuals. The Affordable Care Act ain’t affordable and this administration could care less about your well-being! Magdalene maybe we should tell Larry to get a flu shot and wish him the best so that he never has to go through the Obamacare process. Or better yet maybe a visit from the Holy Spirit would give Larry the help he so desperately needs.

  • Larry

    @Joe H.

    I guess hysterics, ad hominem and appeals to God are about the only thing you can bring to support your argument. Common sense and an honest presentation of facts have no place with you. If you think letting a church run roughshod over people working for them is anti-christian, then you really need to re-evaluate what Christianity means.

    And you are also wrong. The insurer ultimately makes treatment option decisions with the plans they offer to employers. Actual treatment decisions are ultimately the worker’s and protected by a right to privacy. The Catholic Church has no more say in contraception coverage than a Jehovah’s Witness employer would have over a worker’s blood transfusions.

    Maybe you will see all companies suddenly become Christian Scientists do they can claim a religious freedom in not to providing any health insurance to employees. That is what your argument ultimately is. Ridiculous hyperbole by people who are demanding a right which does not exist.

    Ultimately you think an organization and company are more important than individuals and a basic right to privacy.

  • Duane Lamers

    Larry, you’d make a good writer of diktats for the current regime in DC. Your first paragraph is the usual liberal screed full of non-truths. No referral by you, eh, to the First Amendment. Nor comment by you whenever anyone brings that up.

    The second paragraph is out-and-out from another planet. A “privilege”? Again, the First Amendment escapes you. The second sentence makes no sense because it is predicated on the false notion that the employees are paying for their healthcare.

    As buyers of a product, people and organizations have the right to make demands regarding that product or to shop elsewhere. Your Obama has deliberately chosen to virtually snuff out all existing insurance programs in his march to a government-run debacle which you approve of. Can you buy a car without the commonly-desired add-ons? Yes, you can. And if one dealer or company won’t accommodate you, another will. Same with purchasing a house under construction.

    There’s no moral standing behind it because you say so? Of course! The liberal line ALWAYS is that the “I” is the arbiter of all things–including the “truth” of global warming that lacks solid evidence.

  • Duane Lamers

    Nor should my tax dollars go to support everything you desire just because you want it and want it to be universally mandated.

    An employee who does not like the quality of healthcare his employer provides can find new employment. That’s exactly what he does when he finds the wage and fringe benefits he seeks being available at another employer who is seeking employees.

    I would advise a more careful thinking before keyboarding. Feel free to offer me the same advice when I let emotion get the better of me.

  • Duane Lamers

    Many non-Catholics support the Catholic position. Of course, they are not liberals and statists.

  • Duane Lamers

    You make a huge mistake. Insurance plans are made up of parts that define specific coverage. Insurers can offer tailored plans. In fact, you probably cannot find any plan offered to one employer that is exactly duplicated in a plan offered to another.

    Did they teach you at home or at school the difference between apples and oranges?

  • Stu


    If you want contraception (which is not healthcare since it only stops a healthy body from working properly) then buy it yourself like an adult.

    Really easy.

  • Stu

    Larry is the kind of guy that screams about the government and church being in his bedroom but then wants to force them back in to pay for his contraception.

    It’s all about principle until he wants someone else to pay for his “free stuff.”

  • Stu

    “Once an employer funds a health insurance plan…”
    Yes, the employer funds it. Now that we have established that fact the rest is moot.

  • Ted Seeber

    Then maybe, what we really need, is to create a Catholic money supply for Catholics alone. Separate ourselves from the culture of waste entirely.

  • Sean

    You are Anti Catholic bigot! Try sabotaging your own religion and stop undermining mine.

  • Sean

    Then the employee can find another job. You are a bigot.

  • Sean

    Because they got their money from faithful Catholics! Just give away are Catholic hospitals to heretics is not a good solution. In fact it is complete surrender!

  • Sean

    The employee is free not to accept an employers healthcare plan and he can band together with all the others who wish to have abortions and contraception and buy their own health plans. Bigot!

  • Sandy

    As a former RN, working in a MERGED Catholic and non-denominational hospital, one of the first things we saw was the elimination of birth control medication from the formulary. Who did that hurt? The people who make the least amount of money and the very same people we look down on if they have children they cannot afford. As a Catholic, is it my place to judge who does and does not use birth control? We have no idea of the circumstances around that choice.

  • Larry


    You don’t get a choice as to how your individual tax dollars are spent that way. Too bad Congress and the supreme court didn’t support your position on the ACA. But democracy involves your tax dollars going to a lot of places you don’t like

    An employer has no right to use coercion against its employees. Being an employer is not license to ask for things they have no legitimate business getting involved in. The personal healthcare decisions of an employee are such things. Since adequate healthcare insurance is considered a fundamental right now, there are now limits to what kind of input is expected of an employer. An employer never had the right to ask of such restrictions to healthcare insurers before. They don’t now.

  • Larry

    Irrelevant. The employees are the ones who have the right to chose such things, not the employers. Just because an institution is owned by a church, it does not have to be treated like one. An institution does not have a religious identity unless it is a house of worship and only if it is a house of worship.

  • Larry

    Employers do not have absolute discretion as to health plans, nor have ever been allowed to tailor such things on religious dogma. Your argument would mean Jehovah’s witness employers could coverage for any major surgical procedure because of blood transfusions. Christian Scientist employers could avoid all coverage other than faith healing. Obvious your argument is ridiculous when you actually bother to think it through

  • Duane Lamers

    Where do you get the idea that employers do not have absolute discretion as to health plans? What law says so? Obamacare? This is the mess that has raised all the objections in the first place. If you’re referencing Obamacare, then you’re begging the question. If you can cite other laws on the books, please do so for our instruction.

    What you seem to ignore or not want it happen is the ability and the right of anyone to seek a healthcare program containing what that person wants. One of the major complaints about your fave Obamacare is that maternity must be covered even in contracts for people beyond childbearing age. Yes, Obamacare mandates universal coverage of certain services.

    By the way, why should birth control be mandated? GIve us your socialist take on this issue. We can’t wait to hear it. Meanwhile, it is your socialist perspective that has ruled out any other perspective about government and its place in our lives. Is Woodrow your middle name?

  • Bob Smith

    Go for it

  • Duane Lamers

    Your position, Larry, is that taxpayers should pay for everyone’s birth control or abortion. That’s what radical socialists believe. Perhaps the taxpayers ought to pay for NFL season tickets, too, or the groceries to be bought at the store.

    In your bubble only does the Catholic Church have no moral standing. It is addressing the issue of sexual abuse. Pope Francis seems to be attracting many of the lapsed Catholics back to participation. Are you aware of measures being taken by bishops as more instances of abuse are coming to light?

    Your first sentence in your 22 Nov. 10:05 posting is a hoot. People who do not get specific “healthcare” coverage that you socialists deem essential can always purchase it on the open market. Nobody, Hobby Lobby included, is dictating to anyone. Your inverted logic tells you that if you can’t get what you want from whomever you want, you are being “dictated” to. But then, we all know that liberalss reinvent the language to satisfy their emotional needs. It is an essential trait with them.

  • Duane Lamers

    Healthcare is compensation, but it is paid for by the employer and can written in any form agreeable to the buyer, the business, and the seller, the insurance company. The notion that the employer has no say in the matter, which is the heart of the socialist “principle,” is exactly what is being disputed and rightly so.

    This whole matter stems from the heart of the dispute regarding the power of government. Those who want expanded government–but only with the power they want to give it–could rue the day if and when there is a president and a Congress elected to strip that government of much of this power and confine it to the restraints ordered by the Constitution.. That might happen if sufficient numbers become disturbed enough by the wreckage Obamacare is about to create of their lives.

    Socialists don’t want to hear any of this. We’ll see how long they can avoid facing it, though.

  • Duane Lamers

    The latter, most likely. They are would-be totalitarians if they are anything at all. That is how far liberalism has degenerated in about 50 years.

  • Duane Lamers

    Employees do not have the right “to choose such things” at an employer’s expense. Give us a reason, Larry, why birth control should be mandated when, until now, anyone who wanted it was able to use discretionary income to obtain it.

    What you socialists want is that your kind of government make all the rules for everyone to live by 24/7. You managed to take a giant step in that direction with passage of Obamacare. Don’t be surprised if the rebellion is strong enough next year to bring in a Congress that’s not afraid to take Obama to the mat on this and a variety of other matters. It could be done, and don’t rule out a government shutdown in the future to force it. The electorate by its choices next year might just be approving that measure.

  • Duane Lamers

    Stu, you’ve highlighted the essence of socialism, which is what Larry preaches. Margaret Thatcher had it right, and we have a 17 trillion dollar deficit to prove that both of our political parties are dominated by socialists.